‘Spy School at Sea’ by Stuart Gibbs is the latest in the middle grade series for lovers of espionage and good writing

Spy School at Sea by Stuart Gibbs

I asked a student who was a huge fan of the Spy School series if I could jump into the Stuart Gibbs Spy School series without having read the first few novels. He said that I’d be too confused. I believed him. Shame on me. I jumped into the series with “Spy School at Sea,” and I was not confused. At all. To the contrary, I was charmed and engaged in the fabulous writing, clever plot, and absurdly silly and yet deadly events that befall our main character. Granted, Gibbs does reference past exploits of main character Benjamin Ripley, and we know that he has a past with his nemesis, Murray Hill, but the fast-paced action and the witty dialogue, not to mention the teenage foibles, all make for a story that is funny, clever, and exciting. No preparation necessary.

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Spidey stories will entertain your kids and teach them something, too

It’s not often that superhero books are more than light entertainment. I’ll be honest in that I was pleasantly surprised that the Spidey Amazing Friends series of books that I read with my grandson had life lessons in addition to the entertainment value. He’s almost five, and he loves superheroes, so when he saw the Marvel board book and early readers on my coffee table, he excitedly asked me to read them to him. We now read them each time he comes to visit.

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‘Tender Is the Bite’ by Spencer Quinn is the latest lovable entry in the Chet and Bernie series

eTender is the Bite by Spencer Quinn

There’s a reason that in the title of this series, “Chet and Bernie,” the dog’s name comes first. As with all the other mysteries in the series, in “Tender is the Bite,” Chet, the almost-K9 shepherd, narrates the tale of his and Bernie’s adventures. Quinn presents this narration brilliantly, and it seems that with each new Chet and Bernie book, Chet’s narration gets better and better. Through Chet’s eyes (and ears and nose, which—no offense—are far superior to ours), we simultaneously know more and less that Bernie does. It’s a delicate balance, writing from the dog’s point of view, and Quinn has it nailed.

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‘Bad Moon Rising’ by John Galligan is part of the ‘Bad Axe County’ series about murder in rural Wisconsin

Bad Moon Rising by John Galligan

When we think of Wisconsin, we think of Milwaukee, or Madison, where the university creates its own college culture. We don’t think of the rural southeast corner where Wisconsin rubs shoulders with the Mississippi River, where there are Amish, and where folks can literally disappear into the countryside with no one the wiser. It’s in this place, Bad Axe County, where Sheriff Heidi Kick lives with her husband and three children.

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National Geographic Kids hits a home run with summer reads kids will LOVE

Ask any teacher what they want kids to do over the summer and most will reply: read. Of course we teachers all want kids to be outside, enjoying the summer weather and swimming and playing, but we also want them reading. Learning to enjoy reading, and reading for the sake of enjoyment, is a pastime that will have lifelong benefits. A person who reads is an informed person who is better able to analyze what is fact and what is fiction.

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‘A Dog’s Courage’ by W. Bruce Cameron; a tribute to the soul of a dog

A Dog’s Courage by
W. Bruce Cameron

In “A Dog’s Courage,” W. Bruce Cameron brings back the courageous and intrepid Bella, the dog we first met in “A Dog’s Way Home.” In this sequel, which also works as a stand alone story, Bella and her human family, Lucas and Olivia, are separated when there is a huge, all-encompassing forest fire that rages out of control in Colorado, where they are camping.

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‘The Box in the Woods’: Maureen Johnson brings Stevie Bell back to solve the mystery of the summer camp murders

The Box in the Woods
by Maureen Johnson

“The Box in the Woods” is a murder mystery by Maureen Johnson, and in it we see the return of Stevie Bell, the super sleuth who solved the “Truly Devious” murders at Ellingham Academy in Maine in the three books that constitute that series. While this mystery features Stevie and her friends, it definitely works as a stand alone mystery, also. The setting is a summer camp where decades ago, four teenage camp counselors were murdered in the nearby woods. Three of the bodies were found in a hunting box on which the word “Surprise” had been painted. It was gory and gruesome and remained unsolved.

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‘Spellmaker’ is the thrilling sequel to ‘Spellbreaker’ by Charlie N. Holmberg

Spellmaker by Charlie N. Holmberg

In an alternative Victorian world filled with magic and spellmakers and spellbreakers, “Spellmaker” by Charlie N. Holmberg gives us the conclusion to the story that began when Elsie Camden, a rogue spellbreaker, came into her own in “Spellbreaker.” It is in the first book that while following the orders of a mysterious group pursuing justice and equality, Elsie is trying to remove a spell on the estate of a wealthy duke, and she runs into Bacchus Kelsey, visiting from his plantation in Barbados. Her life changes, and for the first time she questions this anonymous group and their orders. We learn that Elsie had been abandoned by her family as a child and ended up in a workhouse. From there she ended up working for Ogden Cuthbert, a kind artist who has hidden his own magical talent, and who treated her almost like a daughter.

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Simon Garfunkel and Investigative Friends

Animal Instinct by David Rosenfelt

David Rosenfelt’s latest suspenseful and witty mystery opus is “Animal Instinct,” the second in what will surely be another long-running hit novel series, this one featuring the “K Team,” three human investigators plus a very important canine operative, former police dog Simon Garfunkel. Yes, that is his name, which I cite here in full because I laugh so hard every time I see it.

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‘Tell No Lies’ by Allison Brennan is an exciting FBI thriller

Tell No Lies by Allison Brennan

While “Tell No Lies” is the second book in a new series by Allison Brennan, readers jumping in with this novel won’t feel that they are missing anything. FBI agent Matt Costa and LAPD detective Kara Quinn are investigating a murder, one that we “witness” firsthand at the beginning of the story. A student who is a passionate environmentalist at the University of Arizona in Tucson is killed while searching for evidence of poisoned water that killed wildlife in the desert south of Tucson. She had suspected that there was illegal dumping of slag from one of the nearby mines to blame, and Costa and Quinn and their team are determined to find out how she died and why.

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‘Black Coral’ by Andrew Mayne is a detective series with an underwater twist

Black Coral by
Andrew Mayne

“Black Coral” by Andrew Mayne is the second book in a new detective series, “The Underwater Investigation Unit Series.” While that’s not exactly a snappy name for a series, it certainly describes what makes this new group of law enforcement officers — the small group that works in law enforcement to solve crimes in and around Florida waterways — different from other law enforcers whose work limits them to more terrestrial endeavors. Sloan McPherson is the main character, and while she’s a bit of an outlaw, she’s an extremely likable one. While this is the second book in the series, not having read the first book didn’t leave me feeling left out. Mayne carefully catches us up on the backstory, and while the events of the first book are referenced occasionally, it doesn’t feel as if there are important details missing in this one.

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‘Charlie Thorne and the Lost City’ by Stuart Gibbs is a worthy sequel to the first middle grade adventure about a young genius

Charlie Thorne and the Lost City by
Stuart Gibbs

The first book in this series, “Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation” pitted young genius Charlie against none other than Albert Einstein. In its sequel, “Charlie Thorne and the Lost City,” author Stuart Gibbs pits Charlie against Charles Darwin, and it’s not surprising that Charlie comes out as the more compassionate genius.

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